At Barney & Carey, I have always searched for new sources of wide and thick slabs for use in bar tops, large and small tables, benches and shelves, etc., but they are not so easy to get. If we buy them green (not dry), then we apply hot paraffin wax to the ends, and store them with stickers (spacers) between each piece. Drying time is approximately one year per inch of thickness. Slow drying like this usually produces a straighter board with less checking (splitting) than occurs when the boards are stacked outdoors to the weather. Even kiln drying, especially on very thick pieces, tends to cause more checking than indoor air drying. Some mills will sell slabs that are not completely dry, which can lead to all sorts of problems when they wind up in a home or other space with very low humidity. We check all of our air dried boards and slabs with a moisture meter to determine when they are ready for use.
Recently, I was able to purchase a couple loads of such materials. We have wide, “live edge” slabs in Black Walnut, Black Cherry, White Oak, Red Oak, and Eastern White Pine. These run from 1″ to 3″ in thickness, along with some 4″ and 6″ pieces ideal for mantel tops. We also have a limited amount of American Elm, Maple, and a few other species. There are a couple places in Massachusetts that specialize in such boards, slabs, and timbers, and I must say at astronomical prices! One such place lists some wide Walnut slabs at $40/ board foot. Hey, we’re not talking about marble or granite here! You will find Barney & Carey’s prices to be a lot more reasonable.
Many of the slabs have the bark still on the edges. While some people like that look, I strongly recommend that the bark be removed, and the remaining live edge be wire brushed and/or hand sanded before applying finish. Changes in temperature and humidity will cause the bark to eventually fall off anyway, leaving unsightly gaps.
Right now, I think we have more wide and thick boards and slabs in stock than I can remember. They are patiently waiting for YOU, the creative woodworker, to bring them to your shop and make them into beautiful things for your home. Check out or inventory—you will not be disappointed!